Yes, You CAN Have a Website!
Originally posted on LombriWrites! Wordpress blog on October 26, 2013
10-Step How-To Guide for Maximum Impact & Minimum Fuss, Time & $$$
For longer than I care to admit, I was like the proverbial bare-foot cobbler's child -- a writer without a website to call my own. That's like a carpenter without a well-stocked tool belt. Why? I had the classic (and mistaken) belief that time for my own priorities would take away from client deadlines, networking for new business and a list of various others-based priorities. (Now, of course, you also need a presence on social media platforms.) Sound familiar?
Here's the good news. In just 10 steps, you can build a simple website in a week or 2 and add to it later. Think of it like buying a small bungalow and building extensions as you go.
Get over yourself. Your website doesn't have to be perfect on day one. Keep in mind that your story is unique, valuable and every bit as enticing as (name any firm or freelancer you admire.)
Take stock. Think of 3 skill sets you have that your targets need or want.
Be focused. Start with a mini-marketing plan of 3 targeted markets and a dozen companies in each one within your immediate area. You can expand your markets, prospects and territory later.
Shop the competition. I don't mean poach their clients or mimic their brand. Look at websites of others in your field -- maybe 6 or 7 -- and notice how they present themselves. Are they graphic centered, copy heavy or balanced? What's their presentation style for skills and services? How do they showcase their work? Do they have a call to action? Make a list of what you like, and have the framework of a plan.
Use your words. If you think about it, you've probably already written your web content. It's in every pitch or proposal you have ever sent to a prospect, not to mention your resume and cover letters. Reread them. Mine them. Make your message clear, punchy and totally directed to the reader. Keep your end game in mind. You don't want to just wow a potential client. You want to reel them in.
Start with the basic 4 -- the who, what, where, how of YOU. Convey who you are in terms of your experience and skills. Be clear about what services you offer. Show where you've worked via a strong collection of projects, with clear visuals and short challenge-to-solution blurbs. Close with a call to action -- and easy how to contact you via phone, email and social media.
Build your site. Whether you do-it-yourself or farm it out, you have lots of options. Just be sure you're comfortable with your choice, and you can easily update it yourself.
DIY. If graphic design and programming skills are in your skill set, go ahead with a DIY website. Some popular free or low cost sources: Wix.com, Weebly.com, Wordpress.com and Godaddy.com. Google more. Most offer domain names, SEO tools and hosting at affordable rates. Mix it up, if you like. I bought my domain through Godaddy.com and my logo design via vistaprint.com. I used Weebly.com for my first website and Wordpress for my first blog and linked them. All have great how-to's and support in place. (Update: my current site and blog were created on Wix.com)
Go to a pro. There's an abundance of talented web designers, graphic designers and agencies who do great work. Use your network. Check professional groups. Google web designers. If you see a website you love, find out who designed it. Get an estimate that fits your budget.
Keep it simple. Start with lean, punchy copy and a 4-to-6-page structure. At the very least, you need pages for: Services, Projects/Portfolio, About You/Your Company, Contact/Call to Action and a Home Page. Add a blog if you like. Include an order page if you're selling online.
Dress it up with great graphics. If graphic design, illustration or photography are in your repertoire, be sure to show them off. Surf the net for free or low-cost images. Create a brand and logo (Vistaprint has a free service). Go back to your network for other sources.
Make it easy to reach you. Your site designer will have a template for a contact page. Invite visitors to call, email, tweet, or post you. Offer a free service, discount or PDF file of a relevant article. Provide a box for comments or questions and a submit button pointed at your email. Add icons and links on each page to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
One last bit of advice: Don't rely on spell check alone. Enlist the help and feedback of eagle-eyed friends and colleagues to read your website for clarity and accuracy. Visit and update your website often to keep it fresh.